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Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart. All arteries, with the exception of the pulmonary and umbilical arteries, carry oxygenated blood.

The circulatory system is extremely important for sustaining life. Its proper functioning is responsible for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to all cells, as well as the removal of carbon dioxide and waste products, maintenance of optimum pH, and the mobility of the elements, proteins and cells of the immune system. In developed countries, the two leading causes of death, myocardial infarction and stroke each may directly result from an arterial system that has been slowly and progressively compromised by years of deterioration.

The arterial system is the higher-pressure portion of the circulatory system. Arterial pressure varies between the peak pressure during heart contraction, called the systolic pressure, and the minimum, or diastolic pressure between contractions, when the heart expands and refills. This pressure variation within the artery produces the pulse which is observable in any artery, and reflects heart activity. Arteries also aid the heart in pumping blood. Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart except for pulmonary arteries.

Blood pressure

Systemic arterial pressures, are generated by the forceful contractions of the heart's left ventricle.

Healthy resting arterial pressures, are relatively low, mean systemic pressures typically being under 100 mmHg, about 1.8 lbf/inē, above surrounding atmospheric pressure (about 760 mmHg or 14.7 lbf/inē at sea level).

To withstand and adapt to the pressures within, arteries are surrounded by varying thicknesses of smooth muscle which have extensive elastic and inelastic connective tissues .

The pulse pressure, i.e. Systolic vs. Diastolic difference, is determined primarily by the amount of blood ejected by each heart beat, stroke volume , versus the volume and elasticity of the major arteries.

Over time, elevated arterial blood sugar (see Diabetes Mellitus), lipoprotein cholesterol, and pressure, smoking , and other factors are all involved in damaging both the endothelium and walls of the arteries, resulting in atherosclerosis or Diabetes Mellitus